Such that the first thing City Councilor Joel Garganera did upon reporting back to work after having recovered from COVID-19 himself was to issue an advisory that “inbound transportation of cadavers to be cremated in different funeral homes/parlors in Cebu City” is now restricted.
STAR/Michael Varcas, file
City morgues overwhelmed
Caecent No-ot Magsumbol (The Freeman) - July 3, 2020 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — Not only are Cebu City hospitals overwhelmed and burial grounds lacking, the unprecedented deaths from coronavirus and other causes are also taking a toll on mortuaries and crematoriums here.

Such that the first thing City Councilor Joel Garganera did upon reporting back to work after having recovered from COVID-19 himself was to issue an advisory that “inbound transportation of cadavers to be cremated in different funeral homes/parlors in Cebu City” is now restricted.

Garganera told The FREEMAN this was not the first time he issued the advisory.

He had already instructed restricting the inbound transportation of cadavers before but found out recently that some from nearby islands were still being brought to the city in direct coordination with funeral parlors.

Thus, he decided to reiterate his advisory.

Waiting in line

Garganera, co-chairman of Cebu City COVID-19 Task Force on sea port and coastal areas, said the primary reason for this move is Cebu City being the country’s epicenter of COVID cases at the moment.

Cases in the city have risen to 5,740.

Death numbers are also soaring, the latest count being 193, including 13 new deaths yesterday.

“Our funeral homes/parlors are already overwhelmed with the number of people who died due to COVID-19. And their staff, who are frontliners, are also at risk of getting infected,” Garganera said.

“Right now, overwhelmed na kaayo atong funeral parlors. We have to wait for four to five days for cremation,” he added.

What is worse is that some hospitals do not have freezers for storing cadavers. Those that do charge the family with P800 to P1,000 per day as storage fee until the crematoriums give the go signal.

“This is why I have to put a stop to it (inbound transportation of cadavers) to seaports sa Cebu City. But we still accept patients from other areas, including from Mindanao for medical interventions,” Garganera stressed.

No viewing, No storage

A supervisor of four branches of funeral home offering cremation services revealed that they can do only four cremations per day and have, in fact, refused job orders at the moment.

He said funeral parlors here have their own protocols in separating the PUIs (persons under investigation), PUMs (persons under monitoring), and the confirmed cases.

“We don’t stock and share the morgue (to non-COVID cases). Hindi kami nag-stock ng patay sa morgue namin,” he said, asking anonymity. “So what we do is kung kailan ang schedule nila, dun pa namin kukunin sa hospital o sa residence, tapos direct cremation na talaga. Wala siyang viewing, walang storage.”

The person who takes the body from the hospital is the same person who sends it to the crematorium.

“Strictly, hindi na siya pwedeng buksan pag naka-pack na sa cadaver bag,” the supervisor said.

“Pero as much as possible, talagang direct cremation na talaga siya, especially sa amin na wala kaming freezer,” he added.

‘Imagine the queuing’

As per DOH protocol, a cadaver can only be stored up to two days as long as it is well-sealed in an airtight casket. Else, it has to be buried immediately.

Since hospitals, for their part, are not allowed to force funeral parlors to claim the cadavers, the long line of cadaver bags can only be imagined.

“Just imagine na the queuing. It would be proper lang na we will be accepting ang diri lang sa Cebu. Kay didto sa ilang area -- for example, Bohol and Leyte, GCQ naman sila. They can properly bury their dead, unlike here na we are not allowed and yet kailangan man ganing ipahipos na ning mga patay in 48 hours,” he said.

From April to early part of May, Garganera issued about 10 clearances allowing transport of cadavers into Cebu. There had been none after that.  JMD (FREEMAN)

COVID-19 MORGUE
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